Functional Training – Why it’s Important
A lot of us have heard the term “functional training” before, and you may wonder what exactly it means. This refers to exercise that recruits different muscle groups simultaneously, just like when we do things in real life. For example, a squat not only works the leg muscles, but also the core and upper body, as well as muscles used to stabilize the movement. In contrast, the leg press pretty much just works your legs. If I am lifting up something heavy from the ground in my day to day life, I would not just “lift with the legs” but I would also be using different muscle groups at the same time.
Whether you’re an athlete training for sport specific performance or a senior who wants to be able to support their own body in daily life, some type of functional training is beneficial.
Benefits of Incorporating Functional Movement into your Training
First off, one obvious benefit to using different muscles in one exercise is that you get stronger a lot faster. You work more muscles in less time – more bang for your buck. Another is that you can help avoid injuries by strengthening the muscles used to stabilize the movement. In our squat example, some of the stablizers you would be recruiting are: adductors and abductors, abdominals, and the erector spinae muscles. If I am training for a marathon, it is greatly beneficial to have all these muscles supporting me throughout that distance – I am much more likely to go further and stay injury free.
Even for the athlete who wants to simply train for aesthetics, adding functional exercises in conjunction with isolation exercises will help ensure they can avoid injuries in the weight room.
Functional Exercises for You to Try
Barbell Back Squat
This is a great lower body movement which will also have your whole body working hard. Keep the weight in your heels, keep your chest up and brace the abdominals throughout the exercise.
A deadlift is one of the most functional movements out there – many of us need to pick things up in our day to day lives! Make sure to squeeze your mid back, pull up using the glutes and hamstrings, and squeeze your shoulder blades together at the top of the movement.
Dumbbell Push Press
To make this a functional exercise, do it standing and use dumbbells instead of a bar to recruit more of your core and stabilizer muscles. Try to relax the traps, keep your abs tight, and push up overhead using your legs and shoulders.
No matter what your goals or fitness level, there are always functional exercises which will help you get to where you want to be. Remember that the most important thing is getting a safe and effective workout – start at an intensity that suits you and go from there.